Posts Tagged ‘5wordchallenge’

How it works:
Write an entry of any length or style using five assigned words. Bold the five words. Tag your blog post with ’5wordchallenge’ and any other tags you wish to add. Feel free to pingback to this post or provide a link to your entry in comments.

This week’s challenge words were chosen by ME!:  monochrome, stilted, affluent, trestle, anachronism

I trudged along the edge of the road, always two steps away from the gravel-and-dirt embankment that loomed next to me.  It rose to twice my height as the road slowly sloped down towards the river. I knew that on top of that mound of packed earth and stone ran twin tracks – remnants from an era when travel by locomotive was the rage.

Back then, a train would have passed by this spot every hour, cars full of passengers awash with the novelty and decadance of travel by rail.  Affluent couples would dine in the epitome of sophistication, their every whim attended to by waiters dressed in monochrome uniforms, while those unable to afford such an expense would whisper enviously from their coach-class seats three cars back.   Young boys, playing out near the tracks after school, might have paused their game of Cowboys and Indians to watch the train pass by them in a rush of wind infused with hot metal and the clattering of many wheels.

Those gleaming steel tracks didn’t shine anymore; I had already climbed the embankment once just to check.   Rusted orange-brown, it was hard now to picture them ever looking new.   Like the junked engines slowly rusting away in the railroad graveyards, the railways were outmoded.  Outdated.  Relics too worthless to salvage and too expensive to restore.   Anachronisms overlooked and ignored by the millions who daily drove their automobiles over, under, or around the railways without a second glance.  Yes, that felt right – invisible anachronisms.

I knew it was so, but I knew more: I was an invisible anachronism, too.   Stuck in a dead-end job in an industry that itself was on the skids, I had nothing in my professional life to look forward to for the 15-or-so years until I could even think about retiring.  My strict adherence to a code of ethics and conduct that had been out of date for at least thirty years didn’t help to win me any friends, and the few times I had made an effort to hold conversations with my coworkers, everything I said came out stilted and shallow.   If I disappeared this afternoon, nobody would even think to look for me.  Or care.  Just like the railroad tracks.

I scrambled my way back up the embankment, clawing at the slope as the loose debris sheathing the hill shifted under my boots.   At the top, I clapped my hands against my jeans, brushing off the black dirt and ochre dust they had picked up in my short climb to the top of the tracks.   Ahead lay the old railroad bridge, spanning the stream that in wetter months might actually grow wide enough to earn its title of “river”.   Right now, however, it was only a trickle of water just barely too wide to leap across, and looked almost comical set in the middle of the wide gorge.  The top of the trestle bridge stood nearly thirty feet above the water’s slow-moving surface.  It looked sturdy enough to walk on, but I planned to go slowly and test my weight each step of the way.  Morbid thoughts from earlier aside, I wasn’t about to help the world forget about me and my solitary existence.

No, today, I just wanted to keep walking.  I might be alone, but then again, I was always alone.  So for this afternoon, at least, I chose simply to embrace my solitude.  Just a couple of invisible anachronisms, out in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing in particular, in the company of nobody.

This 5 word challenge: sliver, smear, chalk, asphyxiation, transcendent

And then they called her mother to the stand.  She plead for her daughter's freedom with a tremble of grief in her throat. 

She tried to explain the circumstances away.  How her daughter wasn't a bad seed, just curious for her age.  After all, when little June had killed the family guinea pig, it hadn't been malicious – she had merely wanted to see the effects of asphyxiation on a live animal.  She pointed out that her daughter had tried it with plants first, but didn't have the patience to wait days for the results.  And June had set up a stopwatch and video camera to record the slow demise of the animal, trapped within the thick plastic bag, all in the interests of science.

Her mother waxed enthusiastically about the transcendent curiosity of her eight-year old child.  How she had sliced her finger one day on a sliver of glass, and watched raptly as her life's essence oozed to the surface of the cut and slowly scabbed over.  How June had cut herself again, this time on purpose, before her mother could stop her.  She remembered how the smear of blood on the glass shard glowed in the sunlight like the finest stained-glass window at their church.  She recounted her daughter's resulting hypothesis that larger cuts would yield larger scabs.  June had thought they were pretty.  She had thought her father would like to have a pretty scab, too.

Her mother's eyes stared off into the distant corner of the courtroom as she thought of the chalk outline on the hardwood floor outside of the bedroom she shared, no, had shared, with her husband.  With him gone, all she had left was her daughter. 

Couldn't they all see that? 

Why couldn't they see that?

[NaBloPoMo 2008 – #19/30]

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This week's challenge: carpet, jury, pasta, shapeless, whey

My apologies to Mother Goose.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider who sat down beside her,
and frightened Miss Muffet away.

Miss Muffet came back, with a big burlap sack,
shapeless and ragged and brown.
She started to sneak, and before it could squeak,
stuffed the spider inside with a frown.

As she stomped on the bag, her face started to sag,
as she realized the results of her fury.
Murder most foul, the public would howl,
and conviction by judge and by jury.

She snuck into her house, as soft as a mouse,
dragging the sack behind her.
Under the carpet she loved, she roughly shoved
the bag (complete with the spider).

She was cooking her dinner when something within her
made her sit down with a start.
The pasta au gratin lay burning, forgotten,
as the guilt grew and grew in her heart.

She went and got dressed, and promptly confessed
to Little Boy Blue down the lane.
Although he was shocked, his emotions all rocked,
sympathy to her he did feign.

They went for a stroll to see Old King Cole,
and find out what he would say.
That jolly old stinker threw her in the clinker,
and there still she spends all her days.

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"It's the way he paws at me," she confessed to me.  "Like he's some kind of animal.  I think I could deal with it if he was at least making an EFFORT to include me, but it's like he just doesn't care what I feel.  Like he's just…"

"Using you?" I prompted.

"Exactly!"  The sunlight filtered through the leaves of the oak tree overhanging the patio.  The pattern of light and shadow danced across her face, playing tricks with her expression.  I saw frustration, suffering, and confusion there, but couldn't be sure which were real and which were products of my imagination.  "I…..I think….I think I'm going to give him back his ring…."

I stayed quiet, expressionless.  I knew she she wanted a response.  She had asked me here for this purpose – best-friend-turned-sounding-board for the biggest decision of her life.  And she expected my….approval?  I couldn't tell yet.

"I mean" she continued, "if he's so inconsiderate right now, how are things going to be in a year, or five years?  It's not like I expect him to come home every night with a dozen roses and a bag of my favorite candy.  But are we going to be still talking to each other?  Still having inside jokes?  Is he going to still put up with my bad habits?  Or is it all going to go downhill, like the sex?"

An errant gust blew her hair into her eyes.  As she brushed back the airy strands, she pleaded with me with her eyes.  "I just don't think I can be with him anymore.  It's not that he's changed, or I've changed….it's just….not right….anymore."

All she wanted was confirmation.  For me to tell her she was right, that she was making the right decision, and she'd be better off without him.  All I had to do was act the friend, support what she had already thought through, and she'd be happy again.  Alive again.  Single again. 

But still not available.  I couldn't chicken out any longer.

"Um."  I cleared my throat, suddenly blushing self-consciously as I tried to put the words in some magic order. "Look.  I know this is probably the WORST possible time for me to say this, but if I stayed quiet here, I know you'd hate me later.  I can't tell you to leave him…I can't be objective….because I like you….a lot…….a whole lot"  I could see a cloud of bewilderment in her eyes as she tried to switch gears and understand what I was saying. "I…..DO think he's an asshole, and I DO think you need to break up with him.  But…if I just told you that today, and let things be…."  I'd lose you all over again, I thought to myself.  Out loud, I finished up, "…I'd hate myself, and if you ever found out later why I supported you in this, you'd hate me too."

As I was talking, I could SEE the change come over her.  Confusion and anguish gave way to complete anger, her eyes afire with it.  She was beautiful, even when she was angry.  "Look," I said again, before she could interrupt.  "I'm sorry I brought this up just now.  I'm sorry I even waited until now to tell you.  But I'm NOT sorry that I told you.  I can't JUST be your friend anymore.  I know that this probably means we won't be friends anymore.  But I don't want to…no…I CAN'T keep this a secret from you.  Not and still be the friend I have been.  I hope you do give the ring back.  I think you'll be happier.  But do it because you want to, and not just because I wanted you to."

I stood up, almost in tears as I turned away and walked away from her, out from under the oak tree and into the blazing afternoon sun.  "Goodbye," I murmured.  "I hope it isn't goodbye forever."  And with that, I left her, my stomach churning, my shoulders tight and tense, and my mind dizzy with what I had just done.

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Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

I wanted to do something different this week, but couldn't think of what until yesterday.  I came across my first sestina in Neil Gaiman's book Smoke and Mirrors.  The sestina's form and repetition amazed me.  Although I am in no way comparing my writing to that of Mr. Gaiman, I knew that at some point in the future I'd have to try my hand at a sestina.

This sestina is dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut, and the first of his novels I ever read, way back when I was 12 years old.  If you haven't ever read Slaughterhouse-Five, this sestina may not make a lot of sense to you.  I recommend hurrying to your nearest bookstore, purchasing and reading a copy, and then come back and give this a second pass.

So It Goes

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
He knows the sands of the desert and the ocean's wave.
He never knows when he will wake,
or who he will see and who he will miss.
"Poo-tee-weet" is the sound of the bird's cry
following a massacre, at the sun's next light.
Death is not heavy on the heart, instead it is light –
for everyone is alive all the time.
Do not sorrow, do not cry,
or lift your hand in a goodbye wave.
For every boy and girl, mister and miss,
exists in the ship of time's froth-filled wake.
If you must console someone's loss with a wake,
hold candles and cherish your fate with their light.
You talk of "Free Will", but you will not miss
the path you have been set upon in time.
Light exists as both a particle and a wave –
as you too exist, both before and after the trumpet's cry.
Lead us all in a cheerful cry,
and we will say 'So it goes' when next we wake.
When mustard gas and roses hit us in a wave
and the ground is lit by a single star's light,
you cannot object to the tricks of time.
The past, present and future are all something to miss.
Aim for your fate, and you cannot miss –
in everyone's life there are tears you shall cry.
But when all is done, and you look at the time,
the furor of fatalism in yourself will wake.
By seeing the light,
you can accept the Tralfamadorian's wave.
As you rise up and down on time's great wave
and think of all the things you will miss,
remember your life, the dark and the light
is always existing, behind someone's cry.
A bombing will produce ruins in its wake
'So it goes', all the time.
Billy's version of time is like a wave.
Sometimes he will wake in a zoo next to his miss.
But he does not cry, for he has seen the light.

So it goes.

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Well, it's been a week already, and that means I've got to pass on the hosting duties of the 5 word challenge to the next sucker host.  Ancora impara has graciously accepted hosting duties, and I am sure is working feverishly to come up with a good set of 5 words for the next challenge.

We didn't have a lot of entries in this past week, but I really liked the ones that got posted.  Ancora impara's take on a game of marbles was a nice counterpoint to my own piece on the same subject.  Baylorgirl made me hungry for some ice cream, while Amanda managed to use all 5 words in a single sentenceMiamiShyner's entry may be too explicit for some folks, but it definitely turned up the heat!  And last but not least, formance came through with a dream piece chock full of imagery and humor.

I'm looking forward to the next challenge, and I hope everyone keeps up the great efforts!

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The drawstring pouch hangs off his hip
         like a holster,
filled with glittering gold, shining silver
     and iridescent, opalescent

He reaches within, selecting carefully
         amongst his hard-earned treasures,
      the clicks and clatters music to his ears
             as he selects his most precious marble
                     by the eyes in his fingertips.

Chilled from its time in his desk drawer,
    his prize possession grows warm between his palms as
he rolls it

He readies the hazy bronze-colored glass, shot through
with sparks of
     amethyst and jade.


and smiles at the noise of his efforts,
     the clacks from the circle that provide
the soundtrack of his bliss,
the joy of success when playing for keepsies.

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"Man, am I starched!" Brian exclaimed, collapsing against the concrete divider that separated our basketball court from the one next to it.  "Can we stop by 7-11 on the way back?  I need to get a coke or something."

"Uh…" I was still trying to figure out exactly what I had just heard.  "Did you just say you were starched?"

"Yeah, why?  Don't tell me you aren't thirsty after playing one-on-one for so long!"

"No, I'm thirsty…but I'm not starched.  I might be PARCHED though….you doofus."  I couldn't help but grin at his choice of words.  Brian might be able to beat me on the court, but a vocabulary whiz he was not.  "I think my Mom has a can of that spray starch though, if you really wanna get starched…"

"Shut up, Andrew!  Quit making fun of me!"  He punched me in the arm, and hard.  I noticed he made certain to keep the prominent knuckles of his first two fingers angled directly into the meat of my bicep, the better to inflict pain into my skinny arm.  Not that he needed to make any special effort to hurt me if he had really wanted to.  At 5'8" and 175 pounds, Brian was the biggest twelve-year-old on our block, and could be quick to give you a beating if he thought you were making a joke at his expense.  "Just because I'm not in that nerd school of yours doesn't mean you can make fun of me!"

"OK OK," I said quickly, backing away to get out of the range of any further punches.  I tried to get his mind off the exchange with a change of subject.  "Let's go hit the Philips station and get a soda.  Billy Mooresby told me that the new Playboy magazine came in, and there's a copy there without a cover that you can flip through if the guy behind the counter isn't looking!"

Suitably placated, Brian scooped up the worn basketball and trailed after me off the court.  He was more than happy to hang out with me, as I always seemed to be the one coming up with cool things to do.  I just had to remember not to insult his intelligence, and we got along pretty well.  My neighbor, Mr. Delacour, calls us Lenny and George, but I'm not sure why.  My Mom said I'll find out when I get into high school, if I really want to know.  Bugging her about it just brought that look to her face though, so I let it go.  Maybe sometime I'll go ask the lady at the information desk at the library – she'd probably be able to tell me why, if I asked nicely.

As Brian pushed open the door to the service station's little snack shop, a tiny little bell attached to the inside handle tinkled a couple times before it smacked against the glass of the door with a dull *tink* sound.  The cool, air-conditioned breeze that blew against my face as I stepped inside felt like heaven…no…it felt like that first jump into the swimming pool on a hot day – a little bit TOO cold, and TOO fast, but carrying the promise of continued delicious coolness to come with it.

The counter with the register on it was old, lined with polished chrome along the top edge all the way from end to end.  It gleamed so brightly in the afternoon sun that I couldn't look straight at it – instead I glanced up from the glare and directly into the suspicious eyes of the guy behind the register.  His gaze flicked over me dismissively and settled back on Brian, assuming that any problems he might face from a couple of kids would stem from THIS source.

I could use this to my advantage.  While the shopkeeper was busy eagle-eying Brian, I slipped back between two aisles, around a corner, and back towards the far end of the store.  This was what we had come for…the small rack of adult magazines in the corner, all wrapped snugly in their opaque covers to prevent peeking before purchasing.  All, I hoped, except for a single issue of Playboy…

My heart racing, I twisted the rotating rack around, cringing a little at the squeak it gave as it started to move.  Glancing quickly around and not seeing any change to the locations of Brian or the guy behind the counter, I focused again on what I thought I had seen….THERE….yes!

Trembling with excitement, I slipped the flimsy magazine out of the rack and held it in my hands.  Here I was, about to flip through another Playboy magazine….prime lunchtime gossip material to talk about for at least a week with the guys at school.  I flipped open the cover and had just focused on a beautiful, rosy nipple when


Did you ever get that feeling where your skin crawls and your blood curdles and your feet scrunch up in your shoes until you don't know how you even stayed standing?  Hearing the shopkeeper clear his throat right behind me did all that and more.  I don't remember exactly what happened after that, but the next thing I know, I was out in the heat and the sun and the muggy, moist air, gasping for breath with nothing in my hands.  Brian was sitting on the nearby curb, drinking a coke.  I now realized that I have never actually TOLD Brian what I needed him to do, much to my dismay.  I started trying to figure out whether I'd even be able to show my face in the store ever again, or whether I'd be stuck walking clear across the neighborhood every time I wanted a coke.

"Hey Andrew, aren't you gonna get a coke?"  Brian dusted himself off as he scrambled up off the concrete.  He towered over me, providing partial shade as he got close enough to blot the sun's glare out of my eyes.

"Nah, I'll just get a drink when I get home.  Let's go check out the creek behind Mark's house.  I hear he built a dam there yesterday.  Oh, and did I mention that I saw a nipple on the Playboy in the store before I left?"

"A real nipple? MAN, you are so lucky.  One time I thought I saw a nipple, but it turned out to be just a birthmark on this girl.  She was wearing one of those bathing suits where you can't be sure what you're seeing and…"

As I tuned out Brian's rambling, suddenly content in the heat and haze and companionship of a good friend, I realized that everything was a close to perfect as I had ever known.  I hope I stay 12 forever, I thought to myself.

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Barnabus Bainbridge the Sixth was not a happy man.  Then again, not many individuals saddled with such a name would be jovial, even under the best of circumstances.

Coming from a long line of Bainbridges, Barnabus could not even resort to shortening his moniker or adopting a nickname for fear of the scandal it would create in the old-money community.  It was hard to believe that they could be so concerned over something as little as a name, but had he introduced himself, even once, as Barney, all idle chat at the country club for the next six weeks would have revolved around his "uncouth nature".  The gossip circuit was the least of the problems he would face, however; his business connections would disappear into smoke, the light of his life would leave him for a Rufus Vanderbilt or a Matthias Perriwinkle, and even his lawyers – yes, the ones he himself employed! – would be whipped into a frenzy over his outrageous insult to the ancient family name.

So night after night, Barnabus Bainbridge the Sixth would recline in his king-sized bed, one small pillow propped under his left side to aid his body in the digestion of the sumptuous dinner he had just supped upon.  He would stare at the ceiling, fervently praying for a solution to his unhappiness, freedom from the chains he had been born into.  "If only…," he murmured. "If only…I was poor…..things would be so…different…."

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I noticed this morning that this week's 5 word challenge required the use of the words coax, abnegate, strawberry, euphony, and feral.  Normally I'd look at a challenge like this and put it off until later, letting the thoughts percolate in my head until I either came up with something good or took a pass on the challenge.  HOWEVER, as I was checking over my spam folder this morning to make sure no emails were erroneously routed there by Google's magic spam-checker, something caught my eye.  Imagine my surprise when I found the following emailed to me last Thursday, on June 28th… Thank goodness for spam mail – another challenge completed!

Subject: jerome's feral strawberry
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Reply-To: Vanessa Ravala <>

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I want to say adios

Marvin loves to build soapbox racers with twelve speeds.  It wasn't until three o'clock that I wanted to abnegate the decision.  The geese filled the pond until only a speck of the blue green water could be seen amidst the masses of angry white feathers.  You coax Michelle with your words to no avail.  Seven pails of sand will fill the pool without problems.  The mirror often shows the truth to the steady observer.  Dragons bite the euphony that taunts them.  The morning stars shine brightest on the desert flowers.

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